Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four



The Pequod Review:

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s most famous book, is a deeper and more encompassing view of totalitarianism than Animal Farm (1945). Set in the territory of Oceania, which is part of a vast authoritarian power zone that includes the Americas and Great Britain, Orwell describes a dystopian society ruled by an all-powerful Big Brother. His book doesn’t merely criticize totalitarianism, but identifies its specific features: the perversion of language that makes criticism of the state linguistically impossible, the use of mass media for manipulative purposes, the revision of the historical record, and the opportunism of intellectuals that leads them to be co-opted by power.

Orwell’s prose is refreshingly clear, but the book is a bit of an awkward mix of science fiction, satire, and realism. In addition, many of the characters and their relationships with one another are too undeveloped. Even more problematic, Orwell’s vision of an authoritarian Big Brother is crude and heavy-handed, with obvious methods of control that overlook the more subtle forms of modern propaganda and manipulation.